Dear friends from all over the world,

On November 21, 1998 the “World Autism Organisation” (WAO) was officially launched during a ceremony held in the hemicycle of the European Parliament in Luxembourg in the presence of Her Royal Highness the Grand-Duchess Joséphine-Charlotte.

The initiative for WAO had been taken by Autism Europe, starting from a suggestion by Hans Wulffsberg from Denmark. This idea came from two observations:

  1. So far, the World Health Organisation (WHO) had no office for Autism nor publications on Autism, UNESCO had no education program for Autism, etc. WAO would advocate for such worldwide endeavour.
  2. The majority of autistic people reside in countries where services are either very weak or non-existent.

So one reason for creating the “World Autism Organisation” was to get recognition from such organisations as WHO, UNESCO and United Nations.

The other reason to create this new organisation would be to promote support to autistic people in countries where it is inadequate. This would be done through information programs and professional training.

The first General Assembly of WAO was organised in the year 2000, coupled with the YEAR 2000 AUTISM EUROPE CONGRESS, in Glasgow, May 19-21. By that time it was envisaged to have a maximum of countries from all continents represented. To that effect, please feel free to distribute this information to Parent or Self Advocate societies or to individual people who you feel might want to join this organisation.

The organisation that was announced on November 21 remains the framework for starting our world wide support group. To that effect, on Sunday November 22, a first “Interim” council of administration in charge of setting up the future organization structure and functioning rules was set up. The council was elected by the people present at the founding meeting. The interim Council then elected the following delegates to the Executive Committee:

President: Pat Mattews (Ireland)
Vice President Africa: Willelm Kabemba Lutumba (Congo)
Vice President Asia (Indian continent) : Merry Barua (India)
Vice President Asia (Far East) : Conchita Ragragio (Philipines)
Vice President South America : Isabel Bayonas (Spain)
Vice President Europe : Christos Alexiou (Grece)
Secretary General : Paul Trehin (France)
Treasurer : Joan Roca i Mirales (Spain)

The other members of the Council were:

Hans Wulffsberg (Denmark)
Evelyne Soyez (France)
Kees Helmstrijd (Netherlands)
Rita Thomassin (France)

The statutes presented on November 21 were by no means set in stone. A slight amendment regarding individual membership was adopted on Sunday 22 November by the founding members present in Luxembourg and it is more than likely that during the period between 1998 and May 2000, the statutes will need to be revised in order to fit the needs and preferences of autistic people and their parents. The interim council had been requested to collect comments throughout the world and make proposals to the first General Assembly in May 2000.

Yours sincerely

Paul Trehin
WAO Secretary General 1998 – 2010